Chooks are so awesome. So much love + all the weeding and fertilising and eggs they bring. Keeping populations of red mite at a low ebb in the chook house holds up our end of the bargain and is the least we can do.
Red mites are tiny 1mm bird parasites. They wriggle into joins and cracks in the walls of the chookhouse (or bark in a tree) and come out at night to feed. No rest for your hens when mites are in the house. Immunity is weakened, egg production goes down, combs and yolks may pale and if left untreated, chooks can get really crook.
Mites are notoriously tricky to manage because they have such a tenacious grip on life. Even when deprived of a food source for a few months they will burst back to life the minute a live chicken/ bird comes along.
A seasonal clean out + keeping chooks in top health + a few key products = sorted. Prevention is way simpler than management. Here’s my ways:
The Hunt For Red Mites
Get out at night to hunt for mites. Don your head torch and look for them scurrying over your chooks, the walls, perch and/ or ceiling. They turn red when full of blood which is super helpful because it makes them easy to see under torch light.
The underside of perches is top mite real estate… bed and breakfast! Run your fingers along – tiny bloody smears is the giveaway.
Pay attention in the nestboxes in the morning. You may see them dashing away from eggs and laying chooks. There after they disappear into the nooks and crannys in the wood. The only sign of them is a grey-ish fuzz on the walls, a sure sign mites are in the house. It’s their calling card, right outside the crack they’ve chosen to live in.
If the chook house is infested they’ll drop all over you. Itchiest feeling in the world, but not to worry they’re not into you. A shower will see you right 🙂
Keeping Ahead Of + On Top Of Mites
Red mites are close to invincible. The one and only time I had an infestation (you’ll only go there once) I ended up getting a second chook house and moving the chooks to clean quarters so I could sort the infestation out. What a mission!
Save yourself and your chooks the pain and clean your chook house out each season. The only way to keep on top of them is to keep ahead of them.
Here’s How I Do It
Before we start with the clean up I want to be sure you are doing a few key things to keep your chooks in top health. For the love of it aye, but also to keep your girls strong when parasites come along.
Empty the house
Once the eggs are laid for the day, shut the chooks away from the house and empty all the shavings – hurrah mulch! Sweep the house clean. Wear a face mask.
Spray The House
Spray the house thoroughly with Poultry Shield until its dripping wet. Be sure to get into every nook and cranny. The spray must come into contact with the mites. They’re deep in all the cracks so you need to drive the spray in. The backpack sprayer is the perfect tool.
Poultry Shield outshines them all… its better than garlic, neem, teatree – I’ve tried them all. There’s no egg withholding period and it’s safe enough that you can spray with the chickens about, but really there’s no need.
Paint + Dust
This next step is my new party trick and I’m pretty pleased with it. Thanks to Ian Selby from Poultry NZ for this excellent tip. When the spray is dry, make a slurry with food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and water and paint it all over the inside of the house. Pay special attention to the perches – especially the ends, the nesting boxes and areas where the ash markings are.
I’ve been using DE to dust my chooks and the chook house for many years. It’s brilliant stuff. Painting the house with it is an extra step that makes sense. I’m liking it.
Fill the house and nesting boxes with fresh sawdust and puff more DE over top. I also dust my chooks before letting them back in. The extra DE is probably over the top but takes 10mins and besides, I love looking after my girls.
For a more detailed read, check out my red mite prevention plan + chook health check up here